Friday, February 10, 2017

Cost Versus Benefits - My New Prius

When I purchased my first Prius in 2012 I was rather apprehensive if it was the right decision, depending on so much electronics technology to keep the car functioning was somewhat scary. People that have never owned a Prius may bash it but the people that have them seem to think it is one of the best vehicles they have ever owned. In the past I had driven mainly American vehicles but the first new vehicle I had purchased, an American minivan turned out to be a huge disappointment. Now you are not going to pull a horse trailer with a Prius or jump start your neighbors car but I think the positives outweigh the negatives.

2017 Prius

After driving the Prius for 5 years and 46,000 miles with no problems I was extremely pleased. The gas mileage varied with 53.5 mpg average being the best it did by the end of one summer, winter mileage is still good but down several mpg from summer. I did all the suggested maintenance but did not have a single issue with the car. Failure of the hybrid batteries was a concern although there is a really long warranty. I had been told that the trade-in value of my Prius would be good, so when the new generation Prius came out, I thought after it had been out a year I would look into trading mine for the new technology.

Better Visibility Out Side Window

Now there are people that really do not like the looks of the new Prius, or previous versions either. The new body style has a slightly lower coefficient of drag than the previous generation which was already low.   The new version has been improved in many ways such as the rear suspension, even better gas mileage, more power, more comfortable seats, more cargo room, and lots of electronic wizardry. It has radar cruise control to keep an even gap with the car ahead and another feature to turn it back if it should start driving off the edge of the road. The Bluetooth interface connects to a smartphone so it can even read an incoming email to you in a female voice. More usable to me is how it connects with Google Maps.

New Dash Better in Bright Sun

Two tiny objections I had with my previous Prius I think have been remedied. The new color dash screen appears easily visible in bright sunlight. Vision out the rear of the car appears to be better also and it came with a backup camera standard. Even in my short test drive with my salesperson from Dahl Toyota, Ken Koeller I could tell the ride and handling in the new model was better.

If pressed for the biggest reason I wanted to purchase a Prius I would have to say I like things that are efficient. How a car can average 50 mpg and not be kiddie car size is through some very clever engineering. In previous blog posts on my 2011 Prius I explained some of the engineering.

I am so excited the number of views to this blog is less than a thousand away from the 200,000 view mark.

Bill Kuhl

Previous Prius Posts   - Dahl Toyota Winona

Friday, January 27, 2017

RC Flying from Snow and Water Parkzone Icon A5

As much as I do enjoy building model airplanes and flying the airplanes I build, I do have a rather large collection of Ready to Fly (RTF) foam airplanes. The radio system I use is a Spektrum DX 9 which is completely compatible with the receiver in these planes and with a model memory of over 200 models I should be good for a couple years at least. My two local hobby outlets stock some of these planes and I have always purchased them local.  These models are great to take to a park or schoolyard where I make sure I am never flying over anyone. 

Parkzone Icon A5

Assembled Model can be Stored in Original Box

In the stock of RTF models at my local hardware store I had noticed an amphibious model on the shelf for awhile; the Parkzone Icon A5. In my modeling bucket list, flying from water was something I wanted to try. When I went to the hardware store a few weeks ago to buy some music wire, I noticed many of the foam RTF planes were on sale, I decided now was the time to purchase the Icon A5. It was winter but I thought this plane should also be great for flying from the snow, and it is.

Flying from Snow
I Flew with Gloves on Sometimes

After rain over snow, the icy snow had little resistance and the Icon took off with a couple of feet.  It flies at a good speed but will slow down fairly slow to land, so much fun doing touch and go’s but what I had not noticed was the bottom of the plane was full of gouges in the snow. I filled in the largest gouge with foam held down with epoxy. Then I used clear tape over the bottom to protect it from further gouges (Thanks Dan B for the suggestion). 

Icy Snow was Tough on Foam Bottom

Last weekend it was above freezing and some rather large puddles were to be found many places, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to try flying from water. The water was really cold but it was only a couple of inches deep. On the first day of flying from water there was little wind to take off into and the plane took most of the length of the puddle to take off. Landing in the water went well but the plane sure slowed down in a hurry. Steering on the water worked well. On the next day I took off into some wind and the plane appeared to take off a little quicker. Some of the time I flew with bare hands and some of the time I wore gloves. I have purchased a transmitter mitt which should arrive soon, that way my bare fingers will be on the sticks and hopefully warm. Actually looking forward to flying from a lake when the water is warm enough to walk into.

No Outrigger Pontoons

Really Wet Snow Sticking to Bottom

The full scale Icon A5 is really an interesting airplane with features such as wings that fold back and several available safety features such as a whole airplane parachute and stall resistance features. Naturally the price is rather high coming close to $200,000. There is also another larger RC foam model of the Icon A5 available; my understanding this is a new version of the one that had been discontinued.

Bill Kuhl

Update 1/29/2017 Transmitter Mitt

I tried the transmitter mitt I just received and it appears to keep my hands warm. Trouble was it was really windy and the plane hit the ground knocking the stab off. It had come off one time before so this time I epoxied it back on.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

When it Comes to Free Flight, I am NO Expert

As my blog is closing in on 200,000 views and many of the individual posts rack up views rather quickly, I have been thinking about what I am doing well and how I might improve on that.  Recently most of the posts have been about free flight model airplanes, but I enjoy many types of model airplane activities such as RC electrics and sailplanes. With the free flight model airplanes I am a relative beginner to outdoor free flight contest flying, I have so much to learn. At least I know that and have tremendous respect for the experts that have been so gracious in helping me. There was a recent online incident with a couple people trying to criticize a true expert in free flight over a model engine that prompted me to write this article.

BMJR e36 Starduster Balsa Structure

What has been on my mind is, why were are as many people reading my articles on free flight when there really wasn’t anything I was teaching them because I am NOT an expert, not even close? My thoughts are that people that have been through the struggles I have had before find it interesting what a relative newcomer is dealing with. As I am given advice I try to follow through on much of it and give my results. Everyone sees the world a little differently and I try to convey how I am thinking about whatever I am trying to do.

Wilbur Rubber Powered Free Flight

This winter I have been doing a lot of building of balsa free flight model airplanes all from kits or short-kits. I feel like each one I build I spot ideas the designer had and think darn, when I design my own plane I might incorporate that technique. Wood is such an interesting material to work with; I find it more interesting than some of the other materials I have used for building model airplanes such as the EPP foam and strapping tape I built RC slope soaring gliders from.  Working with balsa you have to consider the grain direction, the density, and the type of balsa grain.  When your airplane develops warps it can be frustrating as well. 

JW EPP Foam Slope Soaring Glider

Yet to Build Witch Hawk 500

Just getting into free flight competition now I feel I have missed out on a lot. I have to admit the new electric free flight is really nice. For my radio control flying I have given up using the glow engines for several years now. Do not miss the mess but I decided I would like to try some glow powered free flight. I purchased the BMJR Witch Hawk free flight kit and will be using a K&B .19 engine.  Also I am going to build a PeeWee 30 model because I have a couple of Cox PeeWee .020 engines in the basement.

Bill Kuhl

Friday, January 20, 2017

Starduster BMJR E36 Build Report

How I selected the BMJR Starduster kit for my second e36 electric free flight model starts many years ago when someone sent me a completely built ½ A glow powered free flight model less the glow engine. I only knew this person through emails but they must have thought I needed the model more than they did. For years it sat in my basement, I did have a Cox TD .049 but just didn’t get around to completing the airplane. A couple of years ago I thought I would try e36 electric free flight and ordered the electric components from Hank Nystrom – Texas Timers and bought a short kit for a Pearl e202.

BMJR Starduster e36
Structure of Starduster

My progress on the Pearl was really slow even with Hank gently trying to prod me to finish it. Then I came up with the idea of putting the electric equipment in the 1/2A model I had, turns out the model was a Starduster. For me having no experience with power free flight it flew pretty well, granted being a larger model it did not climb anywhere near as fast as an e36 model. After enough flying of that model, Hank convinced me I needed to finish the Pearl. My inexperience was more of a handicap getting the Pearl flying well but by the end of last year I had made many great flights with it and still have it in flying condition.

1/2 A Starduster Converting to Electric

Pearl e202 in Flight

This winter I decided I would have another complete e36 model flying and decided on another Starduster, this time one that was designed as an e36 model.  The BMJR kit is a full kit with an instruction booklet although I was able to build the Pearl fine from just the plans. Harry Grogan designed the e36 version and the construction was somewhat different than other models I have built. The wing has angled ribs that connect with the straight ribs way before the trailing edge. Thin 1/64” plywood is used to tie top and bottom spars together. The wing and stab appear very rigid before covering although somewhat heavy compared to the Pearl.

Wing and Stab Construction Starduster
Fuselage Construction

Fuselage Fitted for Timer

Covering for the fuselage was Esaki tissue; wing and stab were transparent Micro Lite. Electronics came from Texas Timers which is what I had used in the Pearl e202. I find the eMax electronic timer very easy to use and it has been completely reliable. In the Starduster I was able to use the provided plywood plate with a little modification and all of the gear fits inside of the fuselage. For power I am using the AX 1806N electric motor as I used in the Pearl, this is plenty powerful for my skill level.

Texas Timers Components 

Front of eMAX Timer

Sal Taibi the Designer of the Original Starduster

I seem to have a fascination with models and modelers of the past; the original Starduster was designed by famous free flighter Sal Taibi in 1958. Interesting reading can he found on the Academy of Model Aeronautics website in a document that is combination autobiography and biography. Several modelers have relayed found memories of Sal such as him driving his 56 Chevy to contests or testing an ignition engine by grabbing a live spark wire. 

Bill Kuhl

Related Links  Sal Taibi on AMA website  BMJR Models Starduster e36  Pearl e202 E36  Texas Timers  eMAX timer and accessories  ½ A Starduster with electric

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Building the Wilbur NOS Rubber Model

One of the things that have kept me interested in the model aviation hobby for so long is the great variety of model airplanes and the many challenges provided by the different types of models. I started flying control line airplanes as a youngster, then radio control (RC), RC sailplanes, and more recently free flight model planes.  Within free flight there is a HUGE variety of model types and contest events. Last summer I went to my first Nats at the International Modeling Center in Muncie Indiana and flew in several free flight events.

Wilbur Rubber Powered Free Flight Model
Jim O'Reilly

There appears to be a trend of wanting to relive the past or in my case I feel like I missed out on certain types of model airplane experiences and I want to try them in the present. After meeting Jim O’Reilly at the 2016 Nats who competes in rubber powered events and runs a model plans business, I decided to contact Jim for suggestions of an older model design that I would build. The model I selected was the Wilbur which was designed in the early 1950’s. Besides the excellent plans Jim creates he has partnered with Bob Holman for laser cut short kits. With a short kit the main parts are included and you provide mainly strip and sheet balsa.

Building a model with all the diagonal pieces was not as hard as I thought it would be, but connecting the two sides with more diagonals was more of a challenge. Apparently I did not connect the sides correctly, in my mind I thought the angles should fill the gaps instead of meeting together. The fuselage although very light seems really rigid just the same.  How the stabilizer was built with diagonals and straight ribs seemed like overkill. The cut out in the vertical fin where you insert another piece with the grain going at 90 degrees was a clever idea I had not seen before, I assume this is to prevent warping.

Vertical Fin Keyed to Fuselage

Covering Fuselage With Polyspan

Folding propeller construction is completely new to me but I purchased a blank from Volare Products for this particular model. The rough shaping and the hinges come done in the blank so it is mainly final shaping. On a model this size there is a ball bearing thrust washer and a shaft bushing needed which I ordered through FAI Model Supply. The fuselage was covered with Polyspan and the rest with Esaki tissue. I was worried how flexible the wing was until I had covered it.

Folding Propeller

Bushing and Bearing

Band Burner DT

For a dethermalizer (DT) I am going to try a rather hi-tech new device which is a band burner DT. This is an electronic device that will burn through a small rubber band at the time you set. I plan to report on this more after I have tried it. 

Also I have provided link to S.A.M., - The Society of Antique Modelers
“The Vintage models flown by SAM members are those designed, published or available as kits during the golden era of model aviation, the decade of the thirties to the beginning of WWII.” Quote website

Bill Kuhl

P. Visser's "Wilbur" Nostalgia Mulvihill per Zaic '53    Item ID  NOSR9   Propeller Blanks  FAI Model Supply - bearings and bushings Band Burner  SAM - The Society of Antique Modelers  Academy of Model Aeronautics

My 4 Minute Video of 2016 FF Nats

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Model Flying in 2017

New Years day in Minnesota turned out to be good model flying weather for January; low wind and temperature right around the freezing mark. The day started out sunny but that faded away early afternoon.  In the morning I flew my Fantastic Foam Flyer rubber powered plane early from a schoolyard when the temperature was only 23 degrees F. I had just painted it with Design Master Floral paint to give it some color against the snow or a cloud covered sky, I think it helped the visibility and did not add much to the weight.

In the afternoon I went flying at a larger field and had some longer flights with the FFF, the short video clip shows what it looked like in the sky with the red paint. I then put out my hi-start to fly my Sig Riser 100. Pounding the stake in the ground was not easy for the first couple of inches. For the next hour I made launch after launch but just couldn't seem to find thermal lift that my glider would climb in for very long. The hi-start was snagging in the ice so many of the launches were not very high. Landing repeatedly in the icy snow tore a couple of holes in the Monokote covering.

Sig Riser 100

Pounding Hi-start Stake

After putting the Riser away I flew a free flight CLG (catapult launch glider) for a few flights. On one flight it appeared to be in some lift and drifted to one edge of the field and landed in a low bush. How it got around other branches and landed just as it did I do not know. After that I made a couple flights of my small Icon A5 seaplane from the snow.

FF CLG Landed in Bush

On Monday it was windier but I flew the Icon A5 again, I had so much fun skipping it across the snow doing repeated touch and goes. When I finished flying I happened to look at the bottom of the plane and it was full of scratches and gouges in the foam. It was repaired by epoxying some foam in large gouges and then clear tape over the bottom of the hull.

Hull of Icon A5 Showing Damage

I Flew With Gloves on

I also tried out the used Walston tracking system I had recently purchased. The tiny transmitter was left in my car and then I experimented with listening to the beeps at different distances and transmitter angles.

Walston Tracking System

Turning really cold again now but I have plenty of model building projects going on.

Happy New Year

Bill Kuhl

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Sky Demon e20 Build Report

My interest in the e20 electric free flight event came about mainly because I am looking for free flight models that will fly from smaller flying sites. With electronic DT (dethermalizer) it is possible to accurately set the time that the DT will actuate. I have flown my e36 free flights from pretty small fields by setting the DT time to be short. It was my thought also that a model that only weighs around 30 grams will survive some pretty hard landings without damage.

BMJR Sky Demon

Before selecting an airplane I purchased the electric components from Bob Selman at BSD Micro, I knew of Bob from his tiny micro RC components and our mutual friend Floy Richards who passed away several years ago. I purchased a 2.5 gram unit that controls the motor run length and the DT time, the actuator for DT is a tiny servo that moves in one direction. I built a small pivot arm that one end goes under the servo rod that moves and the other end connects to DT line.  With my purchase I also selected the programming box, a Parkzone motor, a propeller, and one battery.  From flying tiny RTF RC planes I have many chargers.

BSD Micro Motot/DT Unit

BSD Micro Programmer

For my first e20 airplane I decided I would build a balsa kit airplane and selected the Sky Demon from BMJR.  This plane looks like it could be a tiny RC plane because it has a full width fuselage; my thought was if I got tired of flying it as an e20 I could install tiny RC gear in the plane. I installed  the motor/DT unit on the outside of the plane with a couple of screws so it could be easily removed.

Motor, Propeller and Battery

EZE Dope

Building the Sky Demon was easy although some of the pieces were rather small and I had to use a tweezers to place them. I covered with Esaki tissue but tried a new to me product EZE Dope to seal the tissue, it doesn’t give off the odor that clear dope I normally use. It did pull the wingtips up when it tightened up giving them washout that I thought might be a good thing. The plane has a left turn under power and glide so I think one wingtip has too much washout.

Sky Demon in Flight
Sky Demon DT in Progress

Last weekend the wind was rather low although it was only 32 degrees F but I decided that was warm enough for test flights. The motor run was set to only 4 seconds and the DT was rather short but long enough to observe the glide. After launch the plane wanted to climb rather steep and to the left, so I launched banked to the right. The firewall of the motor was taped on so I could adjust it later, since then I gave it more downthrust and some right thrust.

Wing and Stab

Stringers in Rear Rather Small

Many flights were made; I am guessing probably around 15 although all were rather short. The plane appeared to fly in a stable manner although the transition from power to glide was not perfect. This will give me something to work on when I fly it again. The DT worked perfectly in those flights although sometimes it was only a couple of feet above the ground on DT.

DT Stab

I am providing the link to NFFS provisional rules for e20. Basically the airplane is limited to 20” wingspan, direct drive brushed motor and 30 grams minimum weight. My airplane weight slightly over 31 grams which I thought was good for a first build.      page 10 E20 Provisional Rules
Bill Kuhl

Related Links  - Sky Demon kit on BMJR website   2.5 gram Motor/DT unit  Programming Box  About Floyd Richards  EZE Dope Video

20 Second Video of Timer / DT